New Icing Rule May Not Pass Scrutiny
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Don't expect the controversial new icing rule to become law.
According to NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee chair Forrest Karr, avenues remain open that would remove that rule from the package of changes the Committee passed last week. And given the outcry that followed the announcement, expect those avenues to be taken advantage of.
The feedback was forcefully and quickly negative last week, when the Rules Committee announced it had voted to enforce icing throughout the game. In other words, icing would be called even during a penalty kill — a quite radical change in the minds of any coach that was quoted.
Karr, who is also the athletic director at Alaska, said he has been on the phone non-stop this week with coaches and other officials across hockey. He is scheduled to have a series of official conference calls over the next two days, including with the CCHA coaches, all five Division I conference commissioners, and then the ECAC and WCHA head coaches.
Any rules have to be officially passed by an NCAA oversight committee. Usually, that committee is a rubber stamp, unless there are serious safety concerns. But the outcry has prompted a rare immediate reassessment, one that could create an opening for the proposal to be shot down.
Though the exact nature of how to remove the rule is still being considered, "If someone on the winning side of something, they have good faith reason it should be reconsidered, they can probably bring it up for (reconsideration)," Karr said.
The Rules Committee — which is comprised of men's and women's coaches, and school athletic directors, from Division I and III — can change rules every two years. Leading up to its June meetings, it gathers opinions and information, including during the Coaches Convention in Naples, Fla., which takes place each April. This year, like others, Karr's group distributed a rules survey in order to seek out consensus opinion on various ideas.
Karr said that, despite the outcry that came out after the fact, there was no overwhelming consensus for or against the icing changes. He did say, however, that it seemed, going into the June meetings, that the rule wouldn't pass. But, after hearing a number of presentations, the majority of the members of the committee thought it was a good idea — simple as that.
"Most people on the committee probably did not expect that rule to pass — I know I didn't," Karr said. "But once we got presentations from the commissioners, from the NHL, once we had discussion about people using it at USA camps — we got information and we decided on that day it would be the best thing for the game. ...
"Most of us that serve on the committee do it despite the fact that it takes a lot of time away from family. We're passionate about it. We want to see the game improve. ... The committee is not some strange entity where people don't know who's on it. It's 12 living, breathing people who have opinions about the game. They collect the information that's been presented and try to do what's best."
Karr said the committee addressed concerns about players getting too tired, especially when combined with the rule that doesn't allow line changes after an icing. But Karr said that many on the committee liked the idea of forcing the defensive team to be more creative in killing the penalty, which would give the power-play team more time in the offensive zone.
"You might see more scoring chances created," Karr said. "The negative is, coaches might just want to ice it every time and get the whistles (anyway), so there would be more whistles. But then there would be a risk of getting scored on, because we know on faceoffs, it's more likely a goal is scored. ... Overall there was also a feeling that it could even change the behavior of players, in that players would be less willing to take as many penalties — not do as much clutching and grabbing if there would be a more strict penalty once in the box, because the team would face more repurcussions.
"The people in the committee care about hockey. They felt it would be a better form of hockey."
Karr understood the criticism that the rule hadn't been tested very much, but said it got positive reports from its limited use.
"A number of coaches in the room have worked with this at the USA Player Development Camps," Karr said. "The criticism is that those coaches are not coaching to win the game, so it's not an exact model of how it would work. But the coaches that used it were pretty adament that it worked well."
Karr said the seemingly unanimous criticism he's heard is not in line with the survey responses he received prior to the Rules Committee meetings.
"The survey going down to Naples, (to say it's) unanimous is not correct," Karr said.
"But this isn't us against the coaches. We want to work with the coaches. We want to get the answer right. So I'll be reaching out over the next few days. ... I think when I get a chance to talk to them over the next couple of days, we'll come to some kind of resolution. I don't see it as something that will fester, since we're all in it together."
On another note, Karr said he expects the CCHA to eliminate the shootout, though he couldn't say for certain. In that realm, he is just one of 11 CCHA athletic directors that will be part of the vote.
The committee had considered mandating one type of overtime for the entire NCAA, and considered numerous possibilities. But in the end, it decided not to change anything. So, while the shootout hasn't been expressly forbidden, Karr believes that the lack of mandate for it is a de facto statement against it.
"I don't know how the CCHA will react, but my personal guess is they'll say, 'We can't be the only conference having the shootout,'" Karr said. "We've had more (shootouts) than anybody at Fairbanks, probably because of the style we play. Our fans enjoy them, I enjoy it ... but my gut instinct is that, as long as we're staying at 5-on-5 (with no shootout mandated), then no one will want to be the only one playing with it."
There were a variety of minor language changes to the rule book, as well, that were approved by the Rules Committee. Those will all be officially release shortly. One of them is that, if a player takes a shot and it hits the crossbar and goes out of play, then the faceoff will stay in the offensive zone.